Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur

9/16/2003

The Demon of Perfection

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 11:07 am

I have wanted to do this for a long time. Its first incarnation was The Quotes of the Week page for the website that we have run since 1994. I wrote a weekly installment that included links and quotes and a column from me. I thought it would be so easy to write one column a week. I found out, very quickly, that it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I would sit for hours just thinking about what I could write that had some connection with quotations. Sometimes I would procrastinate and then hurriedly finish a piece. “It’s not very good, but I only had an hour to do it.” I would tell myself.

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything. Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863)

I was too blind to recognize The Demon of Perfection looming in the back of my mind. It has been five years since I wrote my last Quotes of the Week page. Because I never allowed myself to have an “off” week, I became so frustrated with the project that I stopped writing completely. Ok, that’s a lie. I don’t think that I have ever stopped writing completely. I’m always working on something literary, even if it’s just my personal journal. A true writer never stops writing, even if she’s just formulating stories in her head.

But that wasn’t enough for me. Writing stories and hiding them in the drawer feels wrong every time I do it. In fact, writing fiction feels wrong. Something about me wants to write the truth. Deep inside, I feel like I need to concentrate on non-fiction. Whether that means telling the story of my life or giving you a lecture on perfection is not the issue. The issue is that I need to tell the truth.

Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can’t accept your imperfections, that’s their fault. Dr. David M. Burns

So here I am. Some entries will be imperfect. Some entries will have no quotations. Some entries might be all picture and color and very little description. Some entries may be brilliant and touch you. I have no idea which are which and it doesn’t really matter because I’m here for me. I need to write. I need to write every day to be a healthy person. I need to tell you the truth as I see it. I can no longer write my own personal truths and hide them in a file on my computer. I need to know that others can see this, even if they don’t like it. Even if my entries are flawed, they need to be seen.

I don’t confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is?the higher achievement. Lois McMaster Bujold, “Mirror Dance”, 1994

10/7/2003

Discarded (part 1)

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 4:40 am

“He’s famous.” That was my first thought when I saw the discarded photo on the side of the road. I was walking on 700 East and at the freeway underpass, I found it. It is a picture of the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, I think. The Olympic rings are to the right. It looks like he is on a television screen. Honestly, it’s not a very good picture, but after going to the trouble of picking it up, I didn’t feel right just throwing back on the ground. I put it in my bag. I’ve always been one to rescue discarded photos.

For seven years, I worked at K-Mart. I started as a checker and worked almost every department in the store. When I was at the Service Desk, part of my job was to refund merchandise. At that time, K-mart would let you get a refund for whatever pictures you didn’t like, no questions asked. Not very many people would refund their pictures, but a few people took advantage of this program.

A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
Paul Valery (1871 – 1945)

As the recipient of these poor, rejected pictures, I always felt a sadness for them. Since we were instructed to just throw the pictures away, I would take my favorites of the discarded home. When I was looking for my photo of Calvin (still missing, sorry), I found these cast off pictures alongside the precious photos of my high school friends. Even though they didn’t depict anyone that I knew, they were just as precious to me.

I had made up stories about each picture. In one there were two boys glowing at the camera. They are dirty as hell, but they look like they were having the time of their lives. I imagined them at age nineteen, fighting in Vietnam together. I imagined them grizzled, old codgers fighting with each other. They laugh together and remember the good times in the mountains of Utah.

Back in ‘Nam ya wouldn’t have done this to me!
– Imaginary Old Coot

In another, there is a picture of a tree. The photographer had stood at the foot of the tree, turned the camera to the sky and caught it in its full splendor. I was immediately reminded of a song by The Cure called The Forest. I imagined the boy looking for his dream girl, only to find that he is just lost in the forest, all alone.

The girl was never there.
It’s always the same.
I’m running to what’s nothing.
Again and again and again and again and again.
– The Cure, The Forest

Unlike an abandoned pet, these pictures bring me comfort without the obligation. Unlike my own pictures, they bring me good memories without a hint of bad. Unlike so many of the discarded, they bring me hope of rescue. Time to think of a story for my new discarded picture.


Update 01-12-09: You can now see these photos at this entry.

10/11/2003

Story By The Numbers – Introduction

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 10:45 am

Fri 11/08/02 7:35 am

To: Mrs. Apgood, Kennedy Junior High School

My name is Laura Lund Moncur. I was in your eighth grade Honors English class in the 1982-1983 school year. I don’t know if you still do this, but you gave us a creative writing assignment called something like, Story By The Numbers. You made us choose three random scenarios that we had to include in a story. I can only remember two of the three random items I had chosen for my story. My story was supposed to have a mailman as a character and have someone be told that they were going to die. I was at a loss. I tried to write that story, but it was the only assignment that I never turned in during the entire year for your class.

Unlike the many assignments that I blew off during my scholastic career, this one haunts me. I have thought of this assignment many times over the last twenty years (My God, has it been that long!). Twenty years have past and I’m still thinking about my unfinished Story By The Numbers.

There is a cartoon show called Daria which used to play on MTV, but now plays on Noggin. I watched an episode of it last month and Daria’s English teacher, Mr. O’Neill, assigned her a special project where she had to write a story using characters that she knew in real life. She was having trouble, so she went back to him. He told her that sometimes boundaries paradoxically free our minds. The limitation that he put on her story was that there had to be a card game. I immediately flashed back to my unfinished assignment.

In an effort to exorcise the demon of The Story By The Numbers, I finally wrote it. I threw in the card game limitation because I couldn’t remember my third random bit. I’m sure I could have written this and felt relief if I hadn’t turned it in to you, but I thought that you might like to hear from a former student. Ironically, I married Mike Moncur (another one of your students from the same year). We’ve talked about that assignment together several times. He has no demons because he turned his in and promptly forgot it.

I’ve attached my Story By Numbers as a Word document to this email. May you have a wonderful life. Thank you for being in mine. Say hi to Miss Cooper for me.

Laura Lund Moncur


How fun to hear from you!!! I can’t believe it was that long ago that you were here at Kennedy. I remember you so vividly. You were so cute…..and always smiling. I remember Mike, also. He was such a good kid. I hope he still is!!! I think when you have a catchy name like Laura Lund (both names starting with the same letter…..alliteration, remember?!) and Mike Moncur we tend to remember them easier.

Your story is great!!! It is so well written…..story line, sentence structure, punctuation, everything! You grew up good….and smart!! You get an A+ on it!! (Ask Mike if I ever gave him an A+ on an assignment!!!)

Thank you so much for contacting me! It was so fun to hear from you. I will tell Ms. Cooper about you. Good luck with all your endeavors. Tell Mike to behave himself and always mind you!!!

Mrs. Apgood

11/18/2003

Writing Fiction

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:53 am

I realized yesterday that my weblog isn’t something that I would like to read and I’m profoundly bothered by it. I prefer blogs with a deeply spiritual background or that are side-splittingly funny and mine is neither. The same for the fiction that I write. I prefer to read science fiction and every once and awhile a fantasy, mystery or even a religious romance novel will tickle my fancy. Every time I’ve tried to write in any of those genres I’ve gotten bogged down in creating a new world and little has been accomplished.

Fact and fiction are so intermingled in my work that now, looking back on it, I can hardly distinguish one from the other.  - W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938

If I were to write a semi-autobiographical novel like Somerset Maugham always did, I’m sure that I wouldn’t ever get bogged down in the details of whether lasers or transporters exist, not to mention artificial gravity. No, all those questions are really easy to answer. Yes, lasers exist. We use them to point at things on white boards. No, transporters don’t exist, no matter what IBM wants its investors to think. No, artificial gravity does not exist and since NASA is dying a slow death, I doubt there is even a need for it.

I would sooner a writer were vulgar than mincing; for life is vulgar and it is life he seeks.  - W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938

I’m much more likely to write a slow and dragging novel set in the real world where lots of emotional things happen and people talk about their feelings. To me, that sounds like a tear-jerking definition of hell that an English teacher would make me read. That’s has been the block for me. If I truly let myself write the fiction that I’m called to write, I wouldn’t want to read the damn book. Just by the blurb on the back, I would categorize it as “chick book” and toss it aside with the others.

I do not write as I want to; I write as I can.  - W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938

Maybe that’s not important. Maybe I don’t need to want to read the type of fiction that I am able to write. Maybe it’s ok to actually hate the type of fiction that I am called to write. Maybe it’s even ok to hate the actual stories that I tell. Maybe the important thing is that I tell the stories. So what if they don’t speak to me. I’m the writer, not the audience. The only thing that makes a piece of fiction worthwhile and successful is whether it speaks to people. It makes no difference whether it speaks to the author.

12/2/2003

Fighting the Demon

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:29 am

Show up at the page. That’s what they say. If you just show up and start writing, you will never be short on ideas. Here I am at the page. I have shown up. Where’s my idea? Do I just spend the entire entry talking about having nothing to talk about? No, that’s not good enough.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.  - Woody Allen (1935 – )

It’s not like I don’t have anything to talk about. I know exactly why I’m blocked. I’m staring the Demon of Perfection in the face again, and I even know from whence he spawned this time. I have a friend who has a son who is in need of letters. This happens often in Salt Lake City. There are so many women who have sons on horrific LDS missions that need letters, that this plea is common to me. I’ve written to many strangers, just because they need input from HOME. This situation is different because the son is not on a mission, but that is of no importance.

I don’t confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is?the higher achievement.  - Lois McMaster Bujold, “Mirror Dance”, 1994

How do you write a letter to a stranger? I usually just talk about myself and describe the weather at HOME. When I tried to write that letter, however, it sounded superficial and trite. He is in such a predicament that the weather at home isn’t foremost in his mind. I found myself trying desperately to write the letter that I promised and came up short. I kept staring at the blank page. Then I remembered.

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.  - Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863)

I remembered that I write a letter to strangers every day. Every day I sit down at the computer and hack out a letter to the world. I could just print up the last few entries that I had written and send them to him. The last few entries included the epilogue for Calvin, though, so I thought maybe I should send back to where Calvin’s story started. Hell, if I was going to go back that far, I might as well just send him from the beginning in September.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.  - Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900 – 1944)

After printing up fifty-two pages of text, I came to terms with what it means to show up at the page every day. It meant that I had written a heck of a lot and I didn’t like most of it. Just as I’ve said before, my weblog isn’t the kind that I would like to read, so I caught myself being incredibly critical of my entries before I had even sent them to him. He’s dealing with some major shit right now and I don’t think he’s going to care one wit about whether the sparrows fly past my window. I sent the entire thing anyway.

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.  - Dr. David M. Burns

Now, here I am, staring the Demon in the face again. Back in 1998, he won. This time, he doesn’t have a chance. I’m just going to show up at the page every day. I know that there are twenty people in this world who like this enough to log on every day. I don’t know their names, but they log in every day. They read my blog at work. They download my blog onto their Palm. If I’m late and don’t post until 11 am or so, they keep hitting my site until it finally shows up. Whatever it is that you like about this site is going to keep showing up here every day, whether I think it’s worthy or not.

1/11/2004

Machine Ballerina

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:22 am

One of my favorite bloggers called it quits in a dramatic way. It was very Cartman. Her last post reads:

“I don’t want to write on my blog anymore. I think I’m going to take up personal correspondence instead. If you really want to know what’s going on with me, email me and ask. Or call. Or visit. I don’t like feeling like a product of mass consumption, and I don’t like being typecast, and I don’t like being analyzed, generalized, harped-upon and ignored. No more.”

Screw you guys. I’m going home.  - Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park

She has been writing off and on for about three years. When I mentioned it to Mike, we was very cavalier about it, “Yeah, all bloggers do that.” This surprised me. I’ve been writing every day of my life for almost as long as I can remember. My journals are boring outpourings of emotions and silliness, but they are consistent. Never once have I felt like a product of mass consumption.

Am I an afternoon’s pastime?
a thing on a string
to be thrown and retrieved
like a phone call received
on somebody’s birthday
to tease and delight
and then say goodnight
and then just say goodbye?
 - Suzanne Vega, Machine Ballerina, 2001

Will it be different because I am online? Will it be different because my journal is available to the world? Will it be different because I now have an audience? There are fifty of you out there now. What if there were fifty-thousand people reading my site every day? Would it make me feel like I was a product instead of a writer? What causes this? If it happens to every popular blogger, I need to head it off at the pass. I need a plan for this contingency.

Am I a toy on a tray ?
a soft piece of clay
queen or clown for the day
machine ballerina
soldier of tin
standing so loyal
while you sit so royal
then I’m put away?
 - Suzanne Vega, Machine Ballerina, 2001

What about the other arts? They Might Be Giants post a new song every single day on their answering machine. They call it Dial-A-Song (718-387-6962) and they consistently create every day. Did they ever have a meltdown? Was there ever a message saying, “We quit. You won’t have us to kick around anymore.” Somehow I doubt it. There might have been days when the message didn’t change. There might have been days when the message informed the callers that they were on tour. I just doubt that they ever told their audience to bug off. It doesn’t seem like their style.

Am I your Mad Magazine?
skin trampoline
pin-up pinball machine
your fantasy girl
of puzzling parts
but none fits or starts
we match wits but not hearts
I’m heard but never seen?
 - Suzanne Vega, Machine Ballerina, 2001

What about Johann Sebastian Bach? I don’t remember ever hearing the “Sod Off Concerto.” He wrote a new concerto every Sunday. His church needed new and inspirational music every week and he provided it time and time again. I’m sure there were a few weeks when they just performed an older piece or maybe the choir sang a chorale. I just doubt that Bach ever wrote the “I Hate You Ungrateful Bastards Cantata.” It doesn’t seem like his style.

For your approval,
perusal,
and your possible
refusal,
I’m amusing,
I’m a puppet for your play.
 - Suzanne Vega, Machine Ballerina, 2001

Guess what. It’s not my style either. If I’m going to quit, I’ll quit with grace. If I’m tired and need a rest, I’ll tell you that I’m tired and need a rest. The fact of the matter is: I AM A PRODUCT OF MASS CONSUMPTION. I’m quite proud of it, actually. Feel free to consume me. Unlike other commodities, I grow larger with mass consumption. Bring it on, baby!

1/12/2004

Physical Writing

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:01 am

The heater vent has turned off and I think both the washer and the dryer have stopped downstairs. I should get up and help get the laundry finished. I should hop in the shower and get ready for work. I should do a lot of things, but I’m still here, writing.

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.  - Leo Rosten (1908 – )

It feels good to let the words leave my hands and splash onto the paper. Sometimes writing feels like an entirely physical activity. I tried to explain this to Mike the other night, but he didn’t understand.

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time… The wait is simply too long.  - Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990)

Sometimes writing doesn’t feel intellectual. Instead of racking my brain trying to find the correct words, the words flow too quickly. They are trying to escape my head, but my hand is too slow to let them all flow freely. Even the spoken word is too slow sometimes. When my words flow like water, writing is entirely a physical act.

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.  - W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965)

Write quickly. Write fast enough to capture them all on paper. Oops! There goes another one. And yet another. So many profound thoughts are lost because my hand is too slow. That’s what writing feels like to me sometimes.

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.  - John Irving (1942 – )

It is times like these when I feel like I should practice. I should be in training for writing the same way I am in training to run the 5K. I should just teach my hand to write faster. I should teach my fingers to type faster. Type faster than speech. Type faster than thought. If only I could type that fast, then writing would feel like an intellectual activity when my mind is racing.

Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.  - Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784), from Boswell’s Life of Johnson

Of course, the real intellectual work comes after the words are on the paper. Read. Edit. Reword. Add some quotes to make it seem like I’m well-read. That is the true intellectual work of writing. After the idea is on paper, I need to train my mind to communicate clearly, but when the idea comes to me, I need to train my fingers to type faster. When the idea is flowing in my mind, I need the fingers of a sprinter.

1/13/2004

Kurt Cobain’s Journals

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:22 am

I don’t know which book store we were in. We go to so many that it could have been anywhere. It could even have been a music store, for all I know. I was drawn to the book because it brought to mind a very personal memory for me. The cover looked like a Mead Spiral Notebook. It could have been my journal.

Michael held it up and said that if he ever became famous, that I need to find all the notebooks that look like this and destroy them. I wonder how Kurt would feel if he knew that his personal journals are reproduced in full for the world to see. I wonder what he would think about the legal wrangling that went on for ten years after his death. Would he have written a concise and notarized will to prevent those problems or do you think he would have relished the drama?

What about my journals? I have boxes of them. Should I dispose of them? They aren’t flattering sometimes. My journals aren’t polished and shiny and clean. They look more like that Mead notebook of Kurt’s. Since the first time I put pencil to paper in fifth grade, I find that my old journals are embarrassing and trite. That first little journal was a small blue thing with a lock. Looking back on the entries is painful. I only turned to it when I was in pain and fifth grade pain is so simple and petty.

It wasn’t until high school that I faithfully started writing every single day, whether I was happy, sad or indifferent. Those entries feel just as simple and petty, though. I documented what I wore to school, who talked to me and how I felt about my favorite crush. As with all my journals, my words were censored somewhat. I always assume that someone will read my journal. That’s why it wasn’t so hard for me to go online. So what if the world reads my journal? My paranoia had me believing that I had no privacy long ago.

A strange side of me wants to digitize them. It wants to go back to the small blue book and start typing them in: misspellings and all. Why would I do that? Why would I waste time in the real world to document my thoughts of the past? Most people believe that journal writing is a huge waste of time anyway. Why would I waste it twice?

Some of those journals I haven’t even read in years. They have been moved from the apartment to the condo to West Jordan to Sugarhouse. The box is opened to verify what they are and then closed again until the next move. What a painful way to spend an afternoon, reading my old journals. If I’m not going to read them, why do I keep them? Why don’t I destroy them so they don’t end up like the Kurt Cobain Journals?

Maybe they are the only proof that I was there. Yes, I was in West Valley, Utah. I went to Academy Park Elementary School. They moved us to Hunter Elementary in sixth grade. Then I went to Kennedy Junior High. Then I went to Kearns High. Then I went to Westminster College. Then I went out into the world. Here I am. There I was. Here’s the proof.

If I destroy them, do I destroy myself? Would my past be destroyed as surely as the pages? Maybe that’s it. I’m planning on being senile. I’m planning on forgetting my past, so I have documented how I felt and what I did so that I won’t forget it. The only glitch in that theory is that some of my best and worst memories aren’t documented in my journals. You see, I assumed the world (or my mom) would read them, so I couldn’t write about the party that got out of control. I couldn’t write about the time that Calvin failed me. It wasn’t until over fifteen years later that I felt safe enough to tell those stories. In fact, there are other stories that I don’t even feel safe enough to tell right now.

So, they don’t truly document the past any more than a photograph could. I don’t plan on reading them, even if I become senile. They are too painful to even look at, much less read. So, why do I keep them? Is it for posterity? No, after I’m gone, I’m not going to worry about that. I’ll be dead. Is it for my unborn children? God, no! Don’t let them see those things! Why don’t I just throw them on the fire? I guess it’s just like Mother Nature said in that episode of Northern Exposure, “One of the things that keeps you from dropping them in the nearest volcano is that you had to work too hard to get them.”

1/14/2004

Your Weblog Is Depressing

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:42 am

Yeah, I know. Believe it or not, I’m not a depressed person. My mouth and vocal chords aren’t depressed. Anyone who talked to me would be happy and jovial and laughing at my rapier wit. Maybe just my fingers are depressed. So much of my writing is automatic. So much of my writing is a physical activity. I’ve decided to blame my fingers.

There’s a dark side to each and every human soul. We wish we were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and for the most part we are, but there’s a little Darth Vadar in all of us. Thing is, this ain’t no either or proposition. We’re talking about dialectics, the good and the bad merging into us. You can run but you can’t hide. My experience? Face the darkness, stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. Give that old dark night of the soul a hug! Howl the eternal yes!  - Stuart Stevens, Northern Exposure, Jules et Joel, 1991

Who knows? Maybe I’m not a depressed person because I get all of this depressing stuff out of me every day. I write two pages of personal journal every day and from that, glean the good stuff for a weblog entry. I guess “good stuff” might be a misnomer if you find this weblog depressing. Still, I realize that this stuff isn’t funny or inspirational. If I found this weblog, I would stop reading it.

It’s cabin fever season people, that time of year when four walls feel like they’re going to come in here and choke the spirit right out of you. Time to lock away those firearms and hang tough. No way through it except to do it.  - Jeff Melvoin, Northern Exposure, Una Volta in L’Inverno, 1994

Yet, you are still reading it. I know you are out there. I see you log onto my site every day. I don’t know your names, but most of you are from the United States. Some of you are reading this entry on your PDAs. I must have scared away my reader from toro.com, but there are lots of you out there reading my entries on your lunch hours and late in the night while I sleep. I see you. Thank you for reading my site, even if you find it depressing.

Life’s dirty. Life’s unclean you know. It’s birth, it’s sex, it’s the intestinal tract. One big squishy, unsanitary mess. It never gets any cleaner either. You know, dust to dust, worms crawl in, worms crawl out, right? Even though we know that, we still walk the walk, we still live the life. We’re like a bunch of little kids. Little kids, you know, we jump in this big old pond of mud and we’re slapping it all over our face, rubbing our hair all down our backs and we’re making these glorious, gooey, mud pies. That’s us.  - Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Mite Makes Right, 1994

By the way, to the person who found my weblog with the search string, “Southern Exposure Wendover.” I’m sorry. I didn’t actually go into the club, so I can’t tell you what it’s like at all, just that it exists. It is located in the strip mall to the west of the Smith’s grocery store. I just found it ironic that Wendover didn’t have a Wal-Mart, but they had a strip joint. I guess people go to Nevada for two things and they aren’t relaxation and isolation.

Continuous unremitting darkness has been known to send some people into an emotional tailspin, so the management here at KBHR radio suggests locking away the firearms. The desire to stick that 45 between the teeth can get pretty strong at times, so why invite temptation.  - Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Northern Lights, 1993

I can’t promise that I’ll be funny. I’ve got to save all my wit and charm for conversation, I guess. Believe me. Most of my humor is of the slapstick variety and taking a pratfall just doesn’t translate well in the written world. I used to have a really funny weblog to recommend to people who thought I was depressing, but he hasn’t written for two months straight, so you’re on your own. If you find someone funny, send me a recommendation.

2/9/2004

This Writing Life

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:01 am

Monday morning. It’s not really Monday for me. This is posting on Monday, but I’m writing it on Thursday the week before. That’s how things work in the newspaper industry. Articles are written days before they “go to press.”  I want to work how a newspaper writer would work. I want to work how a magazine writer would work. Keep ahead. Write days ahead so that you never get behind. “Stop the presses” just doesn’t happen in real life, especially for articles that go in the Lifestyles section. If you miss your deadline, you just miss an opportunity to show up in print. There is no room for delay or procrastination. I don’t have to be perfect, but I do have to be on time.

Intellectually, I feel like I should treat this blog like a newspaper writer, but there is another gut feeling that bothers me sometimes. Instinctively, I realize that the Internet is a completely different media than print. It is so easy to “go to press.” Why should I treat my weblog like a newspaper when it is so clearly NOT a newspaper?

When Kristen was in the hospital, my prewritten entries seemed so empty and silly. I posted small notes saying that our family was in crisis, which seemed so much more real than the prewritten entries that I had written days before I knew that we were going to be in crisis. Of course, I didn’t worry about the blog. I knew that I had a few days of entries to hold me through the worst of it. I didn’t disappear off the face of the earth because I write days ahead. Which is better? Man, I don’t know.

I tend to write in bursts, writing a couple of entries one day and nothing the next. I mostly write Monday through Friday and rest on the weekends. I don’t like to get more than three or four days ahead because then when I want to talk about something cool like Janet Jackson’s right breast, it ends up posting days after I was so excited about it. This schedule is just arbitrary, actually. I could set up a different schedule where I write every single day. Then the time that it was posted would be the time that it was written. I could work well either way, but right now I’ve been working in bursts. Which is better? I just don’t know.

What about if I died? My entries would show up posthumously like clockwork until we finally reached the final entry of my life. How do I feel about that? On one hand, I hate it because the silly things I had written would be haunting my blog after my final curtain. On the other hand, I like it because I would be able to speak from the grave. A part of me would live on beyond death. It would be a short-lived legacy, but that’s better than most people have. Yeah, maybe the newspaper method is better. I may never have a genetic legacy, but I can at least have a written one.

3/5/2004

Genius

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

“What else do we need?”

“I need some black socks, an apple corer and a dust pan just in case I drop another glass.”

“And have to write a blog about it.”

We were making the shopping list. My black socks are so close to getting holes in them that I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t survive the next washing. I took my apple corer to work so that I could have cooked apples with cinnamon at lunch. It’s going to stay at work, so we need a new corer for home. And of course, we need a dust pan just in case I drop another glass.

“So, I guess you’re still reading my blog. What did you think of it?”

“It had a little bit of that ?I ate a cheese sandwich’ feel to it.”

“I was trying to talk about how surprised I was that the glass didn’t bounce. I truly thought that it was going bounce, instead, it shattered.”

I’m smarting. He didn’t like my Broken Glass entry. Of course, I realize that I can’t be a genius writer every day, but I’m working at it. If I write every day, my writing will get better. There will days that I write about breaking a glass, but there will be other days when my writing is genius.

Consistency is the goal. If I write every day, I will get better. Slaving over every word and editing my work to death is not the correct path. If I produce a large quantity of work, I will have that many more chances at genius. Mark my words. Someday I will write an entry that will bring you to tears or make you laugh until you pee your pants just a little bit. Someday I will write an entry about a broken glass that will be genius. Until then, keep reading.

3/12/2004

Rest

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 2:31 pm

Just show up at the page and start typing. That’s what they tell me. All I need to do is show up here every day and I will think of things to write. I have tons of things to write about, but I’m not really feeling in the mood to write. In fact, I wrote a whole blog entry for Sunday about not wanting to write.

I look at my Buddha. He’s so happy. He tells me to rest. I don’t need to write two entries today. One is enough. I can write something tomorrow or even on Monday.  No pressure. One entry a day. That’s it. I’ve done my one entry. Rest, he says.

3/14/2004

Stall Tactics

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I didn’t feel like typing my blog entry. I decided that I wanted to write by hand. I think it was just as stall tactic so that I wouldn’t have to think about writing. All I would be responsible for was figuring out how to print up some good paper. It allowed me to fight with the printer for a good half hour before I actually sat down to write.

It’s not like I have nothing to write about. I have a couple of subjects written in my Moleskine that I could ramble about. I have more episodes of the past from the Gifted and Talented department. I have plenty to write about.

It’s not like I don’t want to write. I am here, with nothing to do, putting pen to paper. I do want to write. I am writing. It surrounds and fills me. There is so much writing shining through my skin that it is almost like an infectious disease. I’ve noticed that it makes others around me want to write also. I am writing.

I find myself arranging the supplies under my desk. I find myself suddenly fascinated with my fingernails and the telephone conversation in the office next to me. I find myself anywhere but here, writing. My fingers still move. The words appear on paper. I’m just elsewhere.

I received email. The tone pulled me away from my paper. An old friend is living a life that would have me running away and hiding in Montana. I am tempted to email her back with advice. I am tempted to email her back with an update about my life. The best update I could give her is: read my blog, but what is there to read today?

Another old friend arrived in town the other day. Matt Strebe, one of the Gifted and Talented crew, is bringing his family back to Salt Lake for a visit. He called, wanting to meet up with Mike and me. We will see him after Wednesday, but I know that my old friend is here in town.

Some days it is easy. I have things that I desperately need to tell you. Other days, I have some things to tell you, but I find myself holding them close to my chest. Instead of letting the stories flow. I arrange the items under my desk and eavesdrop on irrelevant conversations. The stories will come when they are ready and not a second before.

3/16/2004

Gossiping

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 4:28 pm

Buddha and St. Jude have been jostled at my desk so that they appear to be conversing with each other. They are standing so close to each other. Jude is taller and would need to bend down to whisper, but he continues to look straight ahead as if they don’t want anyone to notice that they are talking. They must be talking about me.

Buddha’s thick accent tries to reason with St. Jude. “She’s busy. It’s ok for her to neglect her writing a little bit. Calm down. By the way, you have a little funny thing right on the top of your head. It looks like a little red clown hat.”

St. Jude is aghast, “That’s the flame of the Holy Spirit!” He takes a deep breath and realizes that Buddha is just trying to distract him, “You just shush. We both know that she didn’t write anything at home last night either.”

“Sometimes she needs to write. Sometimes she needs to rest. You,” Buddha pauses for effect, “need to calm down.”

Gossiping little bastards.

4/6/2004

New Web Log

Filed under: Blog Stuff,Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Matt started a web log. Now all my friends are writing web logs.”

Dan sounded a little jealous or maybe he was just amused at the commonality among his acquaintances. I felt like saying, “Why don’t you start a web log?” but the conversation had turned to Dan’s friend and his life with his wife, Stacey’s old friend from long ago.

The first web log I ever read was Real Live Preacher. It seems strange that I would be introduced to this world by a Christian, but I love his blog, despite his religion of choice. Do you ask what religion your plumber is when there’s raw sewage flooding your bathroom? No. When I’m bored at work, it doesn’t bother me that Real Live Preacher is Christian. He’s a good writer and that’s what’s important.

From Real Live Preacher, I found Standing Room Only. Hugh Elliott is another good writer who’s funny and down to earth. After reading the two of them every day for a month, I was convinced that I needed to start my own blog. It suddenly seemed so strange to me that I would just hide my writing in a file on the computer every day. Why did I do it for so long?

Because writing is hard. Writing every single day in a relatively coherent manner is difficult. Some days I feel empty. Some days I have such a hard time trying to explain why such an insignificant thing like a beat up van could spawn my thoughts about change and metamorphosis. Some days I feel like everything I say could be warped and construed so that it will end up on a porn search. Some days I’m confused by the means in which people found me.

Every day, I show up at the page. Every day, I start typing and let the words take me on a trip. That’s the beauty of writing every day, but the pain is that some days I start my blog entry typing, “Just show up at the page. One entry a day, that’s all I need. What am I going to write about today? What do I want to tell the world? I feel empty. What am I going to talk about? What am I scared to talk about?” It usually only takes a paragraph of writing like that before the real entry starts for me and I’m ready to delete all of the emptiness.

So, Dan, when are you going to start your own web log? Did I make it sound glamorous enough to inspire you? Come on… Everyone’s doing it…

5/29/2004

Who The Hell is William F. Claire?

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I quoted him back in December. Just in case you didn’t remember, because I quote so many people on this weblog (although not as many as I used to, hmmm), here is the quote:

I dream of wayward gulls and all landless lovers, rare moments of winter sun, peace, privacy, for everyone.  - William F. Claire

This quote and the name, William F. Claire, brought four visitors to my site. They typed his name incorrectly, calling him William F. Clare, but they found me nonetheless. The last time I got that many hits with one name of an obscure artist was when Peter Ustinov died. The Quotations Page was number two on the Google search for his name and we were hit a lot when he passed away. I worried that this poor William F. Claire fellow just left us and that maybe I should eulogize him in some way.

So I tried my own search for him. It’s no wonder I was hit, I’m on the second page and the ten hits before mine were all just the same quote that I quoted. Some of them had the quote in poem form; others had it listed out like prose, as I had done. I wasn’t able to find any biographical information about him. All I could find was his name on some books that have been published and that same damn quote, over and over.

As far as the Internet knows, William F. Claire said a pretty thing and lots of people wanted to say it again. He wasn’t born. He didn’t die. He existed for a petite moment in time, recorded a shining thought and blinked out of existence, unnoticed. Oh yeah, he wrote a piece called “Thinking of Anais Nin” from which that quote was taken. That brief window of time was March 29, 1971, since that’s when the National printed his work. It looks like he wrote some poetry, but there is precious little about it or him on the Internet. You can’t even buy a book by him on Amazon.com.

Is he alive now? Is he still writing? If he is, he needs to get a web designer hired as soon as possible to get his name out in the Internet world. Some whipper-snapper like Cory Doctorow is going to kick his literary ass. If he’s dead, where are his obsessive fans? They have fallen short and haven’t even put up a biography for him. If my weblog that merely quoted him on a snowy winter day can show up on the second page of the Google search, his obsessive fans should be ashamed of themselves.

Is it going to fall to me? Am I going to have to be the one obsessive fan for William F. Claire? In the future, children won’t go to the library for their book reports, they’ll come to the Internet and he’ll be sorely underrepresented there. Am I going to be the sole stalker to put up his biography so that the Internet can remember him and children can write book reports about him? If that’s the case, I’m going to have to find out who the hell is William F. Claire?!

7/3/2004

Lunchtime at the Park

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Sometimes it’s so slow at work I could write all day long. With only a few interruptions from phone calls and engineers, I could spend the entire day documenting my life. Even with six to eight hours to write, I still would be unable to document everything that happens to me every day. There is simply no way to record a life in entirety.

Instead I write snapshots of the most interesting moments of my day. Sometimes I write about the most boring moments of my day. When my day is busiest and my encounters are the most exciting, sometimes I don’t write at all.

That’s what happens when I go on vacation. I plan on not writing. I expect my days to be filled with enjoyable activity and my evenings to be filled with well-earned sleep. That’s what happens on the weekends. I plan on not writing. I expect my weekends to be filled with errands and chores and the occasional family visit. That’s why I pre-write my entries before I leave on vacation. I set them up to arrive every morning at 5:00 am while I’m gone. I do the same for the weekends.

You see, I’m actually writing this entry on my lunch hour on Wednesday, June 30th. I’m planning on transcribing it from my Moleskine some time before Saturday when I plan on posting it. You see, I’ve already written the entries for Thursday, Friday and Sunday. I just need to get Saturday’s entry written and I’m ready for the weekend.

Today, work has been very busy for me. There will be no writing at work, but my lunch hour is spent in the shade at the park. There is only so much relaxing I can do before I pick up my Moleskine and start writing. Even if I were to write every moment of every day, I would still be unable to document my life in entirety. I can’t let a minute slip by when an important thought is on my mind.

7/11/2004

Show Up

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Mike Ferry is a real estate guru. He’s pretty much out of the business now and his sons run the show, saying the same things with a new twist here and there. Over the years he has changed a lot. It’s interesting to listen to his old tapes and compare them with the newer ones. The real estate game hasn’t changed much in the last twenty five years, no matter what they want to tell you. Price the house right and it sells. The Seller is happy, the Buyer is happy, the Broker is happy and the Agent gets it in the ass.

Mike Ferry’s first rule of selling real estate is: Show Up. You have a listing appointment? What’s the first thing you need to do? Show Up. You are taking the buyers out to see property? What’s the first thing you need to do? Show Up. You need to get some appointments? What’s the first thing you need to do? Show Up. His first rule of real estate is being in the right place at the right time, whether that place is at a listing appointment, a showing appointment or in the office prospecting for new clients. Get your ass in the door every freaking day and you’ll be a successful real estate agent.

That’s how I live my writing. Every day I show up. I get my butt in front of the computer or I take out my Moleskine and I show up at the page. I don’t know why I think that I should follow the same rules for writing as I did for being a real estate agent. I was a relatively successful real estate agent, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was harder on myself than a boss ever would have been. I would have punched myself in the nose and quit if I could have found a place to stand to get the leverage to break my own nose with my fist.

Ok, this entry has taken a metaphysical trip that I didn’t intend, so let’s start over.

Every day, I show up at the page. Even if I think I feel empty, I show up at that page and I start typing. Sometimes I write a half a page of crap before I get an idea of what to write about in my entry. Sometimes I’m so consumed with something that I can’t write about in public that it’s hard to even think about something else. I just let my fingers complain about the taboo subject and within a few pages, I find something interesting to talk about.

How do I write every single day without fail? I show up. I treat it like an appointment. If I had an appointment with a Seller to list their house, would I blow them off because I “didn’t feel like it”? Hell no. I’d show up at their house, no matter what. That’s how I’ve been treating my writing. No matter how empty I feel, I show up and start typing. Amazingly, there is always something in there to come out. I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes, it feels like it comes from somewhere else, but I still type as fast as I can to get it out of my fingers and on the screen.

I quit the real estate business over two years ago. Is it wrong of me to keep all those Mike Ferry tapes and inspirational stuff? I remember getting really revved up by them and feeling inspired to get on the phones and get appointments with as many clients as possible. I think I cling to them because they made me feel so inspired to work hard. Man, I worked hard when I was a real estate agent. Now that they’ve cut my hours at the office, I don’t make as much as I did then, but I have no desire to go back. It was so stressful and the broker took half my hard earned money.

Then again, I work hard at this blog every day and it has only earned about three bucks in advertising money. You can’t measure something solely by how much money it earns. I feel such a sense of accomplishment by publishing my writing every day. Every time there is a surge in readers, I rejoice at my higher numbers. Quite frankly, I learned a lot about life being a real estate agent. Sometimes I feel silly for going into the real estate business because I worked so hard for so little money, but most of the time, I’m grateful that I learned so much and I’m even more grateful that I don’t have to do it anymore.

8/2/2004

A Novel Idea

Filed under: Looking For Christ,Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

After converting all of my entries to WordPress, I noticed that I have only a couple of entries in the Fiction file. For all my talk of being a writer, I haven’t given you many examples of my fiction writing. If I hadn’t bothered with categories, I wouldn’t have noticed how slim my Fiction section is. I feel like a fraud.

The fact that I haven’t shared my fiction with you doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I write fiction at least three times a week and I have been working on a novel that I have been thinking about for quite awhile. I’ve tortured the closest people in my life (Mike, Stacey and Dan) with my preliminary chapters. Just because they love me, doesn’t mean they want to read my work. Fiction is such a fickle fancy that I can’t depend on impressing my intimates with my tastes.

The novel I’m working on right now is a science fiction piece about time travel. Ambigo Thomas is an elite medical professional called to be on a team of specialists sent back in time to find the truth about Jesus Christ. He finds himself as the sole atheist on the team, which is financed by the Catholic Church. He struggles to keep the team’s focus logical and studious in the dangerous and primitive society we call The Dawn of Christianity. The title of the story is, Looking for Christ.

Something in me wants to keep it a secret. I want to hide the chapters and the plot and even the title from the eyes of the world. I want to finish it before I let others see it. I want to hide the chapters in the desk drawer next to the finished copy of The Falstaff. After five years of stagnating in my desk, The Falstaff is reviled in my mind. I am ashamed at its clumsy writing. It was written before everyone had a cell phone in their pocket, which destroys the story line. Sure, I could place it in the early nineties when it was written, but that isn’t the only plot hole in it. No, it sat in the drawer too long and it will never be a good novel no matter how much I rework it.

Why am I tempted to subject Looking for Christ to the same fate? Fear. I’m scared that someone will steal my plot. I’m scared that someone will make fun of my writing. I’m scared that a typographical error will embarrass me. I’m scared that publishers won’t want my book if it has been on the Internet. I’m scared that I will never finish the book and that failure will be there for the world to see. I’m scared that I will need to change chapters and they will already be published online. I’m scared of so many things that I have four chapters waiting on my hard drive. Instead of posting them when they were done, I’ve started to let them stagnate.

To Hell with all of that. So what if someone steals my plot? I could write ten stories with this plot line and each of them would be different. So what if someone makes fun of my writing? At least I’m writing every day as opposed to most people. Every word I write makes me a better writer. So what if I make a typographical error? Guess what?! I’m going to make tons of them. I’ll do my best to edit it, but only fresh eyes can see mistakes like these. I’m offering these chapters up to hundreds of fresh eyes every day. So what if publishers don’t want my book because it’s already published on the Internet? The publishing world is changing and maybe I’m my own publisher. Maybe publishers will be more likely to notice me if I have a server-crashing website. So what if I never finish the book? I’m more likely to finish it if my throngs of eager readers keep asking me when Chapter Five is coming online. So what if I need to change things in the chapters. This is the Orwellian future that we have all worried about. Big Brother isn’t watching, but all of us Wilsons are changing the past every day on our weblogs.

As of today, NO MORE FEAR. I refuse to hide my fiction anymore and tomorrow morning I will have Chapter One online for all of you to read.

8/17/2004

Just Write and Write

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Unedited Entry from my Personal Journal 08-16-04 3:31 pm:

I feel like I haven’t written enough lately. The truth of the matter is, I haven’t been writing here and I haven’t been writing my book very much and I haven’t been writing on the blog very much. I don’t particularly feel empty. I feel tired, so I have been doing the bare minimum to keep me afloat. Of course, we are starting another week and I have another chapter due for the book and I have some blog entries that need to be written and I am just cracking my morning pages at 3:30 in the afternoon. What is the matter with me?

We went camping last weekend, and I thought that the quiet would give me a lot of free time to read and write. All I did was read the new book that I got from the library. I haven’t done anything else. I read while I exercised at the gym at lunch, but I haven’t done anything else. This is the first real time I’ve cracked the keyboard since the weekend ended. Sure, I’ve been leaving messages on the DDR message boards, but I haven’t really been writing in earnest anywhere. I have a blog entry due tomorrow. I missed Sunday. All I did for today was post a chapter for the book, but I need to get cracking on the book or I won’t have anything to post in a couple of weeks.

I must admit that I like posting chapters once a week because that is a day of the week that I don’t have to worry about writing for the blog. I like to write fiction sometimes and this is a way for me to be published. It’s one less day each week that I have to write personal stuff. What am I hiding from? Hell, I’m even hiding from myself. We are over halfway into the month and I’ve written less than four pages. I must be hiding from something. What is it?

I have been playing a lot of DDR lately. It isn’t the kind of exercise that is really conducive to thinking. I end up with tons of songs in my head, but I don’t end up with a lot of ideas of what to write. I didn’t really get any ideas when I was riding the bike today either because I read the whole time. I must admit that running is really good for thinking about writing. I don’t know if I need to get back to running or learn how to meditate a different way. I just don’t know what’s going on. I guess I’ll just do the exercise that is the most fun and worry about writing at a different time.

Of course, when I’ve had a ton o f time to write, I’ve caught myself just surfing the Internet or reading online comics. Sometimes I get good ideas of what to write while reading the Internet, but most of the time, it’s just escapism. I’ve gotten more ideas for writing while I’m doing my morning pages than from things on the Internet. Sure, they can be springboards, but the best way to think is to actually sit down and think.

I don’t know what I’m hiding from. I’ve been doing really well on eating healthy lately. I ate poorly on the campout, but I decided that I wasn’t going to follow the program and I was going to let myself enjoy it and not feel guilty afterward. Now, I’m going to follow the program strictly for the rest of the week to make up for it. I plan on eating the minimum and exercising really well all week to make up for the weekend. I know it would have been better if I had kept track of everything so that I could know exactly how much I needed to purge, but I’ll just do the best that I can this week and see what happens at the scale. Then I’ll go back to eating five flex points a day, but for now, they are being saved to make up for camping. I don’t feel guilty, but I want to see progress at the scale, so I’m willing to work hard this week.

Camping was simply wonderful. Mike and I want to go camping again soon, but we haven’t decided where to go. Setting up the tent and the bedding was easy and fun. I really liked setting up the tent, even though we had to do it in the dark. I enjoyed it a lot. I thought I would be more bugged by not showering than I was, but it wasn’t that bad. It did make the shower when we got home feel that much better. Mike made the best breakfast for Mom, Reed and me on Sunday morning. It’s amazing how well he can cook on a little outdoor stove. He really seemed to like to camp, despite all his stories about his Boy Scout experiences. I loved it and I want to go again this weekend and take Sid with us. Of course, we have so many things to do that didn’t get done on the weekend. We did all the laundry, though, so that was the important thing. We got a lot done, actually, when we got home. We completely unpacked.

I would like to find a packing list for camping so that we take everything that we need to. We forgot paper towels and soap this last time. Plus, it would have been nice to have a fire poker. We ended up using the marshmallow prongs to poke the fire and they aren’t quite strong enough to handle that big job. I would like to have a perfect little checklist that I could go through because I think that would make getting ready for camping a lot more fun and easy. It was the getting ready that was hard. Once we were there, it was fun and relaxing. It got a little hot, but I didn’t mind that. I just took a nap in the shade and I felt a lot better.

I had no idea how fun camping could be. My only experience with it was through the eyes of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes comics. His dad took him camping and he hated it. That was all I knew. Kids hate camping. From what I saw, the kids loved camping. I just really liked it. I would have liked to have a little more time. I would have like to sight see less because there really wasn’t anything to see at Lava Hot Springs and I would have liked to just sit at the campsite and read some more. Maybe I would have even liked to write something down. As it was, I didn’t write a word. I’m ok with that, but I think that I would have liked a little more down time and a little less shopping. I had to do so much shopping before the trip that I was feeling shopped out. I ended up getting a little sick from all the sun when we were walking around the town.

I’m feeling all this pressure because I have a blog entry to write for tomorrow and I have no idea. I don’t even know what I want to write about. I don’t even want to write. Sure, this feels good, but there’s no pressure here. I don’t have to edit it or worry about spelling or grammar or hurt feelings. I can just write and write and not worry about anything. I can just keep writing until the end of the page shows up and not a word before or more. I can just write everything that I’m worried about and everything that is just randomly passing through my mind without thought or care. I don’t need to worry about what is going to happen if someone I know reads this entry because it’s hidden in a file deep on my hard drive. That’s how writing was for me a year ago. I could just write and write without worry. Now, I’m worried about hurting feelings and looking stupid. Maybe I’ll just go back to writing how I used to write. Maybe I’ll just post this entry completely unedited on the blog for tomorrow. I don’t know. We’ll see…

8/18/2004

William F. Claire Is Alive and Well!

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Sun 8/15/2004 6:49 PM

Sent via the form at laura.moncur.org

Yes, he is alive. He is a remarkably good person and an extraordinary friend. He is kind. He is compassionate.

He has written many, many poems. Some of them are the best I have ever read (and I have an MFA in Poetry, so I have read at least a few really good poems). Once, he wrote a poem for me and read it on NPR.

I would be happy to put you in touch with him if you like and if it is okay with him.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Peace, Tobie

Sun 8/15/2004 8:53 PM

Sent via the form at laura.moncur.org

I can give you a five sentence bio of a five thousand word one depending upon your patience. But you must know that there are other worlds than the internet or web sites. No one ever asked me, by the way, if they could use that quote, which was originally a poem in the Nation Magazine, NYC, although it has been widely anthologized, and was just translated into Japanese. I’m off to the horse races tomorrow; then golf on Tuesday so I’ll sign off for now. Peace and all good things to you and ours. Bill

Tue 8/17/2004 8:38 AM

Sent via the form at laura.moncur.org

I didn’t go to the races yesterday but would have bet on anything close to Laura, a woman of exquisite taste. And oh, yes, amazon.com does have a new book of mine (though the world of old books is a million times more interesting (and amazon.com doesn’t have a clue). It’s listed simply as Poems: A Collection, by William Claire. Forget the F. If you buy one, you will not be disappointed. Besides having my undying devotion, you will get some astonishing freebies that are priceless. By the way, you seem like a wonderful writer yourself. William

Tue 8/17/2004 2:46 PM

Mr. Claire,

Thank you so much for responding to my entry. You’re right. There is a world outside of the Internet and web sites. I find that it is slowly replacing the library for me. Someday in the future, I feel that if it’s not on the Internet, it won’t exist.

You and Tobie stumbled upon my personal online journal (weblog or blog, for short), but Mike and I run a Quotations website (http://www.quotationspage.com/). It is the oldest quotations website on the Internet, which means that we put it up in 1994, which is young in the publishing world, but old as the hills on the Internet. We started it as an educational site and it has survived all the commercial sites. We have a page for each author and we would love a brief paragraph biography to put on your page. It’s the closest thing to a fan site that you have.

Regarding permission to quote: we usually leave the quotes up unless the author or the copyright holder complains. If you wish to be off the list, that is fine with us and we will remove you from our site. Just drop us a line and we’ll change it however you like. Additionally, if there are other quotations from your work that you would like to see on our site, we’d be happy to put them up.

You should really consider setting up a web page for yourself. It’s something that could be done very simply using one of the free sites like LiveJournal.com. I think you would be surprised at the response that you would receive from fans and the illiterate alike.

There are so many times when we get email for people trying to contact Andy Rooney or some other person that we’ve quoted. If you got a higher ranking than us on the Google search, then you would get that email instead of us. It’s always fun to receive fan mail, don’t you think?

I’m so glad you’re alive and well. You should really look into setting up an online journal. It’s so invigorating to publish your work every day to an awaiting public. It makes writing so much more interactive.

Hope to hear from you soon! Laura Moncur

8/21/2004

Conversations with William Claire

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

From: William F. Claire Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 8:28 AM To: Laura Moncur Subject: Re: with no F.

Laura.

There are some sobering thoughts in your email about the future of the internet that I’ll have to think about; I’ve printed them out to think about them. Generally speaking, I’ve discovered that the more unsifted information people have, the more dangerous situations develop…like intelligence from the Pentagon(where I once worked) to people who think they know it all and act on that preposterous assumption.

The Quotations website you set up sounds remarkable…and truly pioneering on the internet. You should be more famous that google.

Four or five years ago everybody you met seemed to ask “do you have a website?” but no one seems to ask anymore. Of course, I could be dead wrong about this, and will take your very helpful suggestions and check it out. If I thought I could sell 10 copies of my recent book, I’d give it a try. Apparently Oprah doesn’t interview poets. At least she hasn’t called. Sigh.

I’d be honored to give you a para bio.Would I do that on here, or on your quotations site.

Thank you for your time and patience with me.

Bill Claire


From: Laura Moncur Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 12:02 PM To: William F. Claire Subject: Re: with no F.

William,

You can just email your biography to me and Mike will put it in the database.

You’re right, the Internet was a fad a few years ago. When the bottom fell out of the Dot Com Industry, it seems like everyone got scared of it (financially speaking). The Internet is not a fad anymore, but it will change publishing as we know it. Cory Doctorow (http://www.craphound.com/fic/listing.html) is a sci-fi writer who has put all of his works online for anyone to download for free. He has found that making his books available online has only increased sales. The same is true for the music industry (although they don’t want to admit it). I suspect that copyright law is going to change drastically or even become obsolete. I don’t know what this future is going to look like, but I’m excited to be a part of it.

I must admit that I have had a hard time enjoying poetry. I can read it, but I don’t find that it touches me as much as it should. Sometimes I feel like the only one not laughing at the joke, as if I’ve missed the punch line somehow. Other times I feel that if I could just solve the riddle, then the poetry would evoke the emotions that it should. I guess I end up feeling stupid because I don’t have the same emotional response as other people say they do. I’d rather read a Calculus book. At least I know that I’ll eventually conquer what’s making me feel stupid. So many times, I still don’t feel emotionally connected even when the poem is explained to me.

Poetry coupled with music speaks more to me somehow. There have been times when I have read the lyrics to a song and not really felt anything and then actually heard the song with the lyrics and have become bonded with the song in a strange way that I can’t explain. Maybe it’s because music has such a guttural response. The beat and rhythm evoke primitive reactions in me that I cannot explain.

Then again, there is always Jazz. It is music and beat and I know that I’m supposed to love it. It’s the cultural thing to do. Jazz is supposed to be the American epitome of music and most of the time I just want to puncture my ear drums when it’s playing. I’m not talking about Frank Sinatra and Billie Holliday. I’m not talking about the Blues and Early Jazz. I’m talking about Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I’m talking about the fifteen-minute songs that go nowhere. There is no emotional response from me except the primal scream of, “Someone turn that shit off right now!” I know I’m supposed to love it. I know the educated and elite enjoy this music and I should follow suit. I have tried to cultivate a taste for it, but I’ve fallen short every time.

Maybe that’s why Oprah hasn’t called. Maybe Poetry is the Jazz of the Literary World. We all know we are supposed to love it, but we don’t really get it and end up feeling stupid. Of course, Oprah’s audience is… Ok, I’ll admit. I have no idea what her demographic is. It just seems that her shows are geared toward women who have nothing better to do with their time than watch television. I know she’s trying to raise the bar and getting them to read some books, but honestly, I think that poetry might be a little high brow for them.

You said that if a website would sell 10 books, you would give it a try. I don’t know how much you get for each book, but Mike’s royalties are only about 25 cents per book. That’s only $2.50 by my calculations. Setting up a basic Live Journal account is free (http://www.livejournal.com/). There are problems with sites like this because you don’t have complete control over the data (your writing), so if you want to get it all off and put it on your own web server, it’s a pain in the butt. Additionally, you don’t control (or profit from) the advertisement that shows up on your site. Of course, the benefits are that you don’t have to pay for bandwidth and programming is very simple. There are tons of sites out there that provide publishing for free (or nearly so). Mike and I have two servers and he does all the programming to keep things alive, secure and running well. You could go that route, but Live Journal is free and easy to use. I figure if 14 year old girls with no training can update and alter their Live Journal sites, it must be easy to use. I’ve never used them and quite frankly, Live Journal has a reputation of being a place for 14 year old girls to pour out their hearts. There is probably a better place for you that’s a lot more respected. Yeah, now that I think of it, Salon.com is much more respected and they have a blog site (http://www.salon.com/blogs/). After checking out their site, it looks like they give you 30 days free and if you like it, it’s $40 a year after that.

I don’t know what’s best for you. You don’t seem to be a technophobe, so setting up your own web server might be within your reach with some training. The fact of the matter is that we are writers and mucking up our minds with programming loses that momentum for writing. When I transferred over to WordPress, my head was so full of worries about my entries transferring correctly that I’m still a little muddled as far as writing is concerned. All I wanted was an easy way to publish my work every day. If that’s what you want, then Live Journal is probably good enough for you. Spend thirty minutes a day writing to your public where everyone can see it. It’s a lot like radio, except everyone in the world who has a computer and can read English can pick up your signal. You don’t even need permission to broadcast, just the know-how.

This month alone, I had readers from the U.S. (13,998 hits), Taiwan (65), Australia (64), Canada (50), the U.K. (48), the Netherlands (32), Argentina (20), Singapore (16), Mexico (14), France (12), Brazil (9), South Africa (8), Austria (7), Russian Federation (7), Sweden (7), Thailand (7), U.S. Military (7) (apparently, I haven’t been blocked. Maybe if I talk about politics more, they’ll block me, who knows), Belgium (6), Hungary (6), Cayman Islands (6), New Zealand (6), Poland (6), Denmark (5), Japan (5), and Germany (4). That’s just so far this month. I have no idea what those 65 people in Taiwan found of interest on my site, but there they are, reading me avidly. Heck, half the time, I’m talking about video games I like to play. If I can get this readership, a famous poet like you with all of your life experience to share should bring tons of readers from all over the world. By the way, I don’t know if Live Journal will provide you with your stats like I have. I have no idea how they work. Mike uses a program called Webalizer (http://www.mrunix.net/webalizer/) to analyze the hits to our sites.

Man, I just read over this email and it’s too bloody long. I’m sorry for talking your ear off. It doesn’t matter to me if you get a website or not. Now that I have your email address, I could just forward any fan mail that comes our way to you. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that people publish their writing for a lot of reasons. Some people just want other people to read their work. They want to be heard. If that’s the case for you, there are a million people on the Internet just waiting for you to put your fingers to the keyboard. Other people want to earn a lot of money from publishing their work. Ironically, it’s looking like making yourself known in the computer world also gets you closer to that goal. Only the future will tell on that one.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Laura Moncur.

8/22/2004

The Changing Nature of Art

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

From: William F. Claire Sent: Friday, August 20, 2004 8:49 AM To: Laura Moncur Subject: Re: with no F.

Laura.

Here is a short bio, although when I checked your list of people being quoted I didn’t note yours truly. Anyway, here goes.

A Brief Bio of William Claire. Born Northampton, Ma. graduate of Deerfield Academy, Columbia University, and Georgetown University. After military (Stars and Stripes in Asia) began career in public and private service in Washington, where simultaneously he became founding editor and publisher of Voyages; a literary magazine, winner of five national awards, as well as a National Endowment for Arts award. A poet and essayist, he has been a Yaddo and MacDowell fellow, and a Rockefeller Foundation grant winner for residency in Bellagio, Italy.

His prose has appeared in well over 50 major publications ranging from The American Scholar and Antioch Review to the The Smithsonian Magazine and the New York Times. His poetry has been recently published currently available only from amazon.com, titled Poems: A Collection.

He founded a city-wide festival in honor of Georges Simenon at the Kennedy Center, the National Press Club and other venues in DC. He coordinated six evenings at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and recorded poems for the Library of Congress archives.

He lives in Lewes, Delaware, and Naples, Florida and owns an antiquarian art and book business.

I think thats enough…I kept out a lot of what makes me different from other poets, i.e. my DC career at rather unusually high levels as lobbyist (after working at both the executive and legislative branches) for different groups and becoming a CEO of a consulting firm but I think the emphasis should be on my literary work. I didn’t mention the titles of my other books but they can be found on out of print sites (Barnes &Noble, ABE, etc.)

I was fascinated with your email, and appreciated its frankness. It’s absolutely Ok to feel the way you do, and there is no need to feel that spending a thousand more hours with Miles Davis will make you feel like a better person. Much of his music was drug-induced and jazz improvisation is a world apart. I don’t have a good musical ear and never played an instrument, or had good art instruction at any level. (I did coordinate a series of evenings at the Smithsonian on the relationship of art and poetry that was a sellout…so one can always learn.) I do love jazz vocalists, particularly the early Sarahh Vaughan and was devastated recently when one favorite, who knew more songs than any other singer, Suzannah McCorkle, jumped off a building in Manhattan…three weeks before another of her CD’s was about to be released.

Speaking of suicides, its tough not to think of poetry and know that in our lifetimes Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz and many others have done themselves in one way or another. So it’s hard to generalize about it without going off the deep end yourself. Or get too deep into it in a Freudian/Jungian sense. It should be like Emily Dickenson’s observation that when you read it should be like your head’s flying off, or something close to that.

No art (including classic music, painting, dance) has been the same since the early 1900′s when James Joyce was writing, Picasso was doing his cubes, Stravinsky was going a-tonal, classical ballet was being blown off the stage by new movements, etc…talk about the world going topsy-turvy! And then the killing started.

I did try to summarize a million tears of woe, death and destruction that shattered Europe and of course, countless thousands of Americans in Flanders Fields and Normandy, etc. in a short poem titled:

A Brief European History

Music I hear is from The Banquet Years,/ The days, my friend, we thought would never end. The grand illusions; Western-front wounds to mend.

All those mournful, melancholy songs; No one listened to Berthold Brecht,Piaff the poor, And off they went marching,.marching as to war.

Enough. William


From: Laura Moncur Sent: Friday, August 20, 2004 9:34 AM To: William F. Claire Subject: RE: with no F.

William,

I look at art from the early 20th Century from a technical point of view. Photography forever changed painting. Audio recordings forever changed music. Film forever changed dance and theater. Storytelling, however, was changed long ago: firstly with the invention of written language and later with the invention of the printing press. I feel like we are sitting on the crest of the third wave of change for storytelling. I just don’t know what it’s going to look like when it crashes on the shore.

To me, it seems like all art is trying to express what it’s like to be human. We are all trying to communicate what it feels like to be in our individual bodies. For example, with photography and painting, the artist is trying to say, “This person. This home. This stranger. They make me happy. They make me lonely. They make me scared.” Sometimes it comes through and the art tells the world universally everything that we were trying to say. Sometimes it falls on deaf ears and no one listens to us. Sometimes what we are trying to say is completely lost, but the essence of emotion remains and people love our work anyway.

Then again, sometimes I think art is a business like any other. Andy Warhol perfected it with painting. I don’t think he wanted to tell us about his emotions. I think he wanted to be famous and rich. There’s nothing wrong with famous and rich, it’s just a different flavor than the desperate attempt to communicate. Art as business needs to pander to the most number of people possible.

Sometimes I feel surrounded by Business Art. I must admit, it panders to me 90% of the time. I can enjoy a good Joss Stone album almost as much as Billie Holliday. Something about that makes me feel guilty, even though I know that Business Art is specially formulated to please me as a consumer. It’s like the fast food at McDonald’s. For the last fifty years, McDonald’s has been perfecting their hamburgers to please the human palate. Yet, I still feel guilty when a Big Mac tastes so much better to me than fresh veggies and milk. Drug induced or not, Miles Davis and John Coltrane have inspired hundreds of musicians. I feel like I should like them as much as a Big Mac, even though they crunch uncomfortably in my mouth.

Thanks for Listening, Laura

8/25/2004

Thinking of Anais Nin

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

From: Laura Moncur Sent: Monday, August 23, 2004 10:26 AM To: William F. Claire Subject: Anais Nin

William,

Hello. I hope your weekend was relaxing and mildly eventful. Mike and I took a drive up the mountains to see a campground. Our church group is having a group camping near Timpanogos Cave, so we wanted to check it out before Labor Day rolls around. After the dog went into near convulsions at the herd of chipmunks, we decided that he gets to stay at the kennel while we camp. The camping book said flush toilets, but all we saw were chemical toilets. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I don’t have to dig a hole.

I originally found you because of the poem you wrote called, “Thinking of Anais Nin.” I was wondering if you ever knew her. What were you thinking about when you wrote it? My education was completely devoid of any mention of Anais Nin. I don’t know if the Eighties was too soon after her acclaim to get her into our curriculum or if her life was too risqué for the conservative Utah teachers. Either way, I know her only through the quotes that I have gathered.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Laura


From: William F. Claire Sent: Monday, August 23, 2004 11:59 AM To: Laura Moncur Subject: Re: Anais Nin

Thanks for the camping report. What kind of dog?

Yes.I knew Anais Nin quite well.She was an original advisory editor* of my magazine, Voyages, and I have written about her at some length in a book of people who knew her. While I was much younger, I even knew her before she came such a cult figure.

I wrote the poem while in a meeting in DC during one of the coldest winters in history when I saw an actual gull outside the window…a sea tern even tho’ DC is three hours from the water. People thought I was taking notes at the meeting, which was going on without end. I wanted to create a world away from the reality and impersonality of the meeting. And it all began thinking about Anais.

Thanks for asking.

William

*She was my most active advisor, never asked for a thing, contributed much, and always with generosity, taste and deference.


From: Laura Moncur Sent: Monday, August 23, 2004 12:15 PM To: William F. Claire Subject: RE: Anais Nin

William,

We have a mutt that is a mix between a shepherd and some sort of husky. He’s only 50 pounds or so, though, which makes him substantially smaller than his heritage. I swear he was barking at the chipmunks because he was scared of them. Maybe he just felt outnumbered. Luckily, he likes the kennel. It’s out in the country. Ok, the suburbs. The owners know him by sight and he gets to run around in their large dog area with all the friendly dogs. It’s Doggie Vacation for him. If he hated the kennel, I’d find a different place for him.

The idea of writing while the rest of the world works in mind-numbing boredom is something that I do every day. My job is to answer phones and type letters. When the phones are silent and the letters are typed, they expect me to look busy. Writing is the best way to do it. Of course, I end up feeling guilty writing while I’m at work, even though they’ve given me permission to do it.

I remember reading an introduction by Isaac Asimov that insisted that he had never written his novels during “work” time. I can’t remember where I read that, but it has hung in my mind vividly. I wonder if that will be an issue for me. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that I write when I’m at work. Hmmm…

Laura


From: William F. Claire Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 8:13 AM To: Laura Moncur Subject: Re: Anais Nin

Laura.

My basset hound could have handled those chipmunks.

On the writing front, seriously, you do have to block out time that is yours alone to accumulate a serious body of work. But if good thoughts come at work by all means jot them down. The same goes for dreams, whatever. Guilt is like fear, and who said “I’ll show you fear in a handful of dust.”

Best. Bill


From: Laura Moncur Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 11:41 AM To: William F. Claire Subject: Fear, Anger and Guilt

William,

Quotes I can handle:

I will show you fear in a handful of dust. – T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922

Knowing the meaning of the quotes; that’s a more difficult task. The carefully tossed handful of dust can blind an adversary. Maybe that’s why poetry is hard for me. I always want to argue with it.

I’ve always thought of guilt as anger directed at myself. In essence, I guess I’m angry that I don’t reserve time to write during my free time. Even when I do, I’ve found it hard to write at home. I allow myself to get distracted by the most inane things. When I’m at work, I don’t worry about the dishes in the sink or the bathroom tile. I just need to learn how to write at home as diligently as I write at work.

Sid would have been scared of your basset hound, too. Never mind the fact that my dog probably outweighs him by half.

Thanks for listening, Laura

9/11/2004

Writing Weekend

Filed under: Looking For Christ,Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I have to finish Chapter Seven this weekend, so I’m going to concentrate on that right now. They are meeting some big-wig holy men in this chapter, so I’m feeling some anxiety about it. I’m scared to write some of these people. I know they are only human beings, but up until this point, I was putting words in the mouths of fictional characters. Now, I’m doing it with revered people who could have actually existed, so I’m scared a little bit.

I need to work past that fear this weekend and get this first “real” chapter done and posted. I’ll write again on Tuesday.

9/13/2004

Still Working…

Filed under: Looking For Christ,Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 2:24 pm

I’m only half-way done with Chapter Seven. I’m still working on it and I’ll post it as soon as I’m finished. My horoscope said that quality not quantity is important this week, so I’m taking the time to do it right. I’m concentrating on getting this chapter done and then I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled writing.

9/14/2004

Thank You, Sally Brompton!

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 11:00 am

TV Guide Horoscope By Sally Brompton

Aries (March 21-April 20) If you aim for quality rather than quantity this week, you’ll build something that not only stands the test of time, but makes sure your name is always remembered. You won’t lack for energy, but you must remember to focus it.


That was the source of my inspiration yesterday. We’re not TV watchers. We rarely buy the TV Guide, but this week, Mike picked it up because he wanted to see if there was anything worth watching this year (there isn’t). It had been sitting on the dining room table and I read my horoscope with my morning bean burrito yesterday.

Horoscopes are so general that they can really fit into anyone’s life. They fall under the “Good Advice for Idiots” category of fortune telling. This weekend, I was the idiot that needed the good advice.

The problem was this: I knew that it would be a short chapter. I try to make my chapters about eight pages long. That feels right to me, but this chapter was only going to be five pages or so, so I was trying to stuff the introductions of two very important characters into one chapter and still keep it about eight pages long. It was a bad decision that paralyzed me all weekend long.

Silly me. I’m not writing a computer book. My chapters don’t need to reach a certain length to appease the publisher. I’m in total control of this book. No one would even notice if a chapter was only five pages long instead of eight. I’ve seen chapters in fiction books that are only one sentence.

It took the TV Guide Horoscope to convince me that it was ok for me to give each character his own chapter. Quality not quantity is such a generic piece of good advice, but I needed it this week. Thanks, Sally Brompton. Good call this week. I don’t believe you are psychic or can read the stars or alignment of the planets in a supernatural way, but you gave me a good piece of advice this week and I’m grateful.

9/27/2004

Feeling Tired

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 2:45 pm

I went camping at Lake Mead over the weekend and I didn’t write a word the entire time. I had brought my Palm and the beginning of Chapter Nine with me, but I didn’t even look at it all weekend. I swam in the lake. I played with the inflatable shark. I bounced around the beach ball. I fed quail, bunnies and mice leftover Jiffy Pop popcorn. I looked at the stars. I spotted the Luxor hotel’s spotlight from miles away. I drank lots of Blue Hawaiians and Pina Coladas. I even played video games on the Palm, but I didn’t write a word.

I didn’t write in my personal journal either. When I say I didn’t write a word, I mean it. I didn’t write for my journal. I didn’t write on my chapter. I didn’t write for the blog. I didn’t write at all. I think the closest I came to writing was when I wrote in the date in the high score field on my video games. How does that rate?

I’m feeling a little tired of writing. I know that taking more time off isn’t the answer, but right now, that’s all I’m going to do. I’m saying hello so you know that I’m still alive, but I don’t have anything profound to say today. Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. Maybe you’ll have Chapter Nine next Monday. For now, all I can do is check in.

10/3/2004

The Van Doren Brothers

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

From: gloria oden Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2004 5:38 AM To: Laura Moncur Subject: [Pick Me!] Comment: “Conversations with William Claire”

New comment on your post #2302 “Conversations with William Claire”

Author : gloria oden

Comment: I just purchased Claire’s book of Mark Van Doren’s essays for a talk I gave to my retirement community on the the Van Doren brothers. They are so wonderful I purchased the books that went with each (as far as I could.) Has he any plans to do the same for Carl? I particularly liked Carl’s final essay at the end of MANY MINDS.


From: Laura Moncur Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2004 10:03 AM To: William Claire Subject: FW: [Pick Me!] Comment: “Conversations with William Claire”

William,

Your fans are leaving comments on my weblog. She has a question that I can’t really answer. I’m not familiar with the Van Doren brothers.

I hope that you are well and happy. I have been filling my days with mindless activity. Sometimes I need a little bit of frivolity to recharge my batteries. Now that Halloween is coming, I’m back on track.

Hope to hear from you soon, Laura Moncur


From: William Claire Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2004 4:15 PM To: Laura Moncur Subject: Re: FW: [Pick Me!] Comment: “Conversations with William Claire”

My Laura,

What nice friends you have. Tell your wonderful correspondent that there is a Carl Van Doren Reader that was a fine compilation of his work, and that there should be copies on the used market, and that he also did a wonderful autobiography titled, Three Worlds. Mark’s autobiography was titled simply The Autobiography of Mark Van Doren. All are out of print, (which is true of 99 percent of all the books in the world, or thereabouts). I could probably find anything related to the Van Dorens if they wanted to get in touch with me directly. Or respond to any questions. There is nothing I would rather do….this is one of the great brother combinations in American literary or cultural history; it’s my pleasure and honor to talk or help anyone interested.

Would like to renew my ad on your network, but amazon.com does not respond if my middle initial is used. How strange, although my brilliant son (an astro-physicist) told me long ago the computer can’t think. Is that true?

All best, Bill


From: Laura Moncur Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2004 4:56 PM To: William Claire Cc: ‘Michael Moncur’ Subject: Our Computers…

William,

Sadly, our computers are only as smart as our programmers. I’m going to have Mike change your name in our database to match the way Amazon.com has it so that when our script does a search, it will bring up the books they have listed. It’s kind of inane of us to change your name to match Amazon.com, because they might not always be the most popular online purchasing company in the future. Right now they are, so we’ll bow to their version of your name and change it back when they get it right. We have no control over Amazon.com’s database, but we do control our own.

Once again, I’ve talked a lot more than I expected to. I hope you have a wonderful week!

Laura

10/21/2004

The True Artist Test

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The test of a true artist is when they inspire others to join the art world. I’m not talking about the gut reaction that screams, “They got paid for that?! Hell, I could piss on a canvas and make a better painting!” There have been so many artists that have inspired that reaction in me in many different fields of art. Joan Miro’s scribbles and misshapen figures inspire me to pick up a brush. Sigue Sigue Sputnik inspired me to pick up the microphone and pen the words for our synth songs in the Eighties. Even Doctor Who inspired me to create better science fiction. This is not the inspiration that I’m talking about.

The test of a true artist is when they inspire others to join the art world. They are so moving that you can’t stop yourself from joining in. You want a moment approaching their greatness for yourself. The Blue Man Group inspires me to pick up a pair of drumsticks and pound on whatever is nearby. Billie Holiday inspires me to belt out the blues no matter what condition my singing voice is. Lois McMaster Bujold inspires me to write complicated science fiction about interesting characters and true heroes. Salvador Dali inspires me to paint images that are as disturbing as they are beautiful. Stomp inspired me to dance noisily with trash can lids. Despite all the hype around their lives, they inspire people for generations. That is the test of a true artist.

I used to think that musicians could only inspire musicians. Script writers could only inspire script writers. Sci-Fi writers could only inspire other sci-fi writers, but I’ve very quickly come to the conclusion that this assumption is wrong. I’ve been inspired to write prose by music, but I consider myself a musician inspired by another musician to write. I’ve been inspired by movies to write. I’ve been inspired by movies to write music. I’ve been inspired by music to dance. All of the arts are all mixed up for me and I have a hard time saying that I’m a writer because I’m so many other things too.

Last week, I was searching the Internet for something when I came across a random site. All it said was that Suzanne Vega was inspired by the films of Marlene Dietrich. I didn’t even click over to the site because it wasn’t what I was looking for at the time, but I logged that fact in my mind. “Oh yeah, Marlene on the Wall. Oh yeah, Freeze Tag. I will be Dietrich and you can be Dean. Nevermind that the two were never in a movie together.” Somehow that actress, that heroine, inspired Suzanne Vega to write music. Apparently, I’m not the only one who can crossover.

A big Thank You to all the various artists that have inspired me to write lately (Queen of Wands, The Postal Service, Something Positive, The Blue Man Group). You have passed The True Artist Test.

10/24/2004

Jesus in My Shower Curtain

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I’ve seen pictures of Jesus in the clouds and Jesus in the wood grain of a wall. I know that they are just the human mind trying to create order out of chaos. It’s the instinct that has helped us climb to the top of the food chain. The opposable thumb is nothing compared to the ability to see the cheetah in the shadows and the rabbit in the field. I know this. The logic of it leaves me incapable of enjoying a “miracle.”

Friday morning, as I sat on the toilet, I looked at my shower curtain. It’s a simple curtain made of white material that is easily washable when the mildew starts to grow. The bottom of it is starting to turn brown and I will probably wash it this weekend to bring it back to the sparkling white that it was when I bought it. The way my shower water hit it on Friday, it left the impression of the face of Jesus, much like the Shroud of Turin.

Did I rush to get a camera? Nope. I didn’t really care. I calmly noticed the ability of my mind to find patterns and images where there are none. I was in awe at the way my eyes had noticed the thin drawn out face and immediately labeled it as Jesus instead of any other long-faced icon. There was no thorny crown. There was only a hint of a beard. My mind had immediately seen Jesus in my shower curtain.

The funny thing is that I went from the logical scientist to the divinatory goddess within a few seconds. My scientist said, “That’s interesting. My mind has found the image of Jesus in my shower curtain.” My gypsy said, “Why Jesus? Why not John Kerry? Why not Herman Munster?”

The guilt swept over me. Since I’ve been sick, I haven’t touched Chapter 10 of Looking For Christ. It has been four sentences sitting on my Palm for weeks now. My gypsy asked, “Why Jesus?” My writer replied, “Because I should be Looking For Christ.” She chuckled and the writer started to laugh. Only my scientist stayed stoic. “Bloody Hippies…” she cursed under her breath.

11/5/2004

National Novel Writing Month

Filed under: Looking For Christ,Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

There is a contest that started on the first of November called National Novel Writing Month. I just heard about it yesterday. Write a 175 page, 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I believe it can be done. It might not be a good novel, but I could write a novel in that amount of time. If I knew that I would be dead in 30 days, you can be damn sure that I would finish my novel before the deadline.

I’m not participating, even though it seems right up my alley. If I did away with all my other writing, (the blog, the web comic in progress, the personal journal pages) I could devote all my time into writing a chapter a day. It really seems like something that I should be attracted to, but I’m scared of it.

It looks easy enough to sign up. All I have to do is sign up, complete my personal information and log my word counts and book excerpts into the website. It works out to 2,000 words a day if I start right now. Why am I scared?

National Novel Writing Month Maybe I’m scared that I can’t do it or that I’m too lazy to do it. Maybe I’m scared that I will fail. Yeah, I’m scared I’ll fail. Fuck that. I’m signing up right now and I’m going to write at least 2,000 words a day. Even if they suck, it’s better than nothing at all. That’s what you guys have been seeing of my book for the last month: Nothing at all. This is just what I need to get my juices flowing again.

11/11/2004

St. Lucia of Syracuse

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 12:28 pm

Yesterday, I was feeling hopeless. I felt like it was too much to do in a month. I told myself that I started four days late and I missed out on all that time. I told myself that I was feeling tired and that this deadline that I have set is self-imposed. I was feeling like failure was inevitable. When I was typing my personal journal pages, trying to get myself out of this funk, I wrote the words, “Who is the patron saint of writers?”

Thirty seconds later, I found the list of the many patron saints for writers, but the only woman was St. Lucia of Syracuse. I’ve talked about the strange idolatry and pagan basis that attracts me with the saints in the past. As I looked at the picture of St. Lucia, I told her, “Help me through this month and I will donate 20 hours of my time to you.” She is also the patron saint of eye afflictions (her eyes were plucked out during torture, but her eyesight was restored before her martyrdom). I didn’t know what I would do for her, but I was willing to do some charity work in exchange for the strength and determination needed to write 50,000 words in a month.

I printed the picture of her to place by my computer (with Buddha and St. Jude). As I laminated the picture (I’m a messy girl), he walked up to me. He’s a technician who knows as much as an engineer, but he doesn’t get the benefit of it. He lives the life of the devout Mormon man, which runs so very contrary to my atheist beliefs. We’re not the best of friends. We are certainly not the sort to exchange music. Yet he walked up to me with a CD.

“Do you listen to Acoustic Alchemy?” I was very confused. “Is it a radio show?” “No. It’s a band.” I’ve never heard of them. “Are they an LDS band?” “No. They’re smooth jazz. If you like Blue Man Group, you might like them.” He handled his CD awkwardly. I could tell this conversation wasn’t going as well as he expected. “I love the Blue Man Group.” I hold out my hand. The CD reads Acoustic Alchemy MP3s. “That’s all of their albums except a couple. I thought you’d like it. You can keep the CD.” I am sincerely grateful for the gift. “Thank you. I’ll put it on my computer right now. Thank you very much.”

I was still very confused. I had no idea why this man who rarely has any words for me suddenly showed up with music for me. I love music, but I really wouldn’t think he’d know it. I put the CD and transfer it to my hard drive. I read the items into MusicMatch and tell myself that it is a sign. I needed some mellow jazz to write by, I told myself. I pulled up the albums that had been read into my computer. I was going to start with the “Best of” album, but a different album caught my eye. It was called, “Sounds of St.Lucia.”

A chill ran down my spine. The deal was sealed. I loaded up the album and did a Google search. I printed up the PDF and faxed the Application for Volunteer Service for the Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled. I also emailed it with the following note: “My name is Laura Moncur. I am able to start volunteering in December for approximately 20 hours over the course of that month. Please review my attached Application for Volunteer Service.”

St. Lucia is going to help me through the 50,000 pages. Every time I feel as if I can’t make it, her face is right there to console me. If you would like to give me a show of support during this month, please donate one dollar to The American Foundation for the Blind and leave me a supportive comment here.

11/29/2004

I Made My 50,000!!

Filed under: Looking For Christ,Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 8:37 pm

NanoWrimo Winner 2004

I made it! I just verified my word count with the NanoWrimo people and I’m done!

Thank you, Michael, for proofreading my chapters! Thank you, Mom, for reading the first few chapters and giving me some encouragement. Thank you, St. Lucia, for giving me hope in the beginning when I needed it.

Me sleep now…

12/1/2004

The Internal Bullshit Detector

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 12:52 pm

Blogging seems so different now. I just took a look at all the Friday Fives that I have missed over the last month and I really can’t bear to answer the question, “If you were a shoe, what would you look like?” Even now, I’m tempted to answer the question. I can feel the answer welling up within me, but the Internal Bullshit Detector that I installed to get through the month of writing nothing but fiction until I hit the 50,000 word mark keeps bitch-slapping the answer until it whimpers something about Saint Bartholomew.

“He was skinned alive, you know…” it quietly mutters, hoping the words will keep the Bullshit Detector from hitting it anymore. “He’s usually depicted as a bloody figure carrying his own skin. Charming, huh? Don’t you think it’s strange how scared the Christians are of the Wiccans when the Christian symbols of holiness are so gory?” The Bullshit Detector raises its hand as if it’s going to hit the idea again. “Show some respect!”

I don’t know how to uninstall it. I hit the Add/Delete Programs button on the Start Menu, but it’s not listed there. I don’t quite remember installing it, but I must have done it. No one else has access to the mainframe of my mind. I’ve actually found the Bullshit Detector useful over the last 30 days. Maybe it’s in the Startup folder and I just need to put it back into the list of programs to be clicked on only when I need it instead of continually running in the background.

It’s there right now, trying to transform and mangle the words I write into something useful. “Maybe Ambigo could be feeling like this. Maybe Petros is trying to document everything that has happened and is having writer’s block or something…” It works very well. I didn’t have writer’s block the entire month. I just had moments when I was so tired I couldn’t move my fingers. Fortunately, Stacey, Dan and Mike took me to Vegas and my fingers got a good four-day rest right in the middle of the month when I needed it most.

It was so helpful having that voice in the background at all times. “What does this have to do with the task at hand? Is it research? No? Well, it certainly ain’t writing fiction! Get back to work, slacker.” The Bullshit Detector speaks with a southern accent in a really loud voice. I think it’s an amalgam of that drill sergeant from An Officer and A Gentleman played by Louis Gossat Junior and Nell Carter from Gimme a Break when she was mad at the girls and not the loving nanny that she was most of the time. It’s neither female nor male. It’s tough as nails and it’s telling me that I am completely off my rocker if I think I am going to post this as a blog entry.

Maybe it’s not a Bullshit Detector. Maybe it’s the Demon of Perfection that has haunted me since I first started writing way back in 1979. Miss Veater reading my essay about Great Britain in front of the whole class and telling them that what I wrote was exactly what she was looking for is not enough. Mr. Godfrey reading my poems in front of the class and not making fun of them was not enough. Getting my work in the literary magazine was not enough. Being a member of the staff of the literary magazine was not enough. Publishing my thoughts every day was not enough. Writing 50,000 words in a month was not enough. Yes, that’s what it is. I’ve received another visit from the Demon of Perfection.

Dammit, I thought I had that thing locked in a box. How the hell did it escape? Good costume, though…

12/2/2004

Life after NaNoWriMo

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I have so many things to talk about that I put on hold for the last month. Everything looks like crap, though. I know it’s the Demon of Perfection spitting all over my ideas, but I haven’t been able to get it back into the box yet.

I got DDR Ultramix 2 for the Xbox, but I was so busy this month, that I have only played it once. Before I started NaNoWriMo, I had been so excited for its release, but now, all of that seems so silly and superficial. Why can’t I bear to put the game in the controller? Well, I can’t play the songs on anything higher than beginner, which isn’t really a workout for me, so playing the game is just playing the game for fun. I can’t have fun, I have chapters to write.

I told myself that I was going to take a month off and not write a word for a month, but my fingers have all of these muscles from writing every day and they get restless if I leave them with nothing to do. I wrote over 14,000 words in two days. I can’t expect to go cold turkey, can I?

I left them all in a bind in the last chapter. Simon was sick with a fever and Herod’s soldiers were on the road behind the swell. What is a swell? I imagined it to be a kind of rolling hill like you see in movies set in Great Britain. We don’t have hills like that. We have huge, lurking mountains or flatness. Of course, they aren’t in Great Britain or Utah. They are dunking Simon in a lake that may or may not exist in ancient Israel.

See that? See that last paragraph? That’s why I need to take a break from writing fiction. The problem is that when I try to go back to my regularly scheduled blogging, the Demon of Perfection gets all medieval on every idea I have.

The worst of it is that I feel like I’ve run a huge race and there were only three people at the finish line cheering for me. I know there have been over a hundred of you reading my chapters every time they’ve shown up. Those numbers on the stats just don’t cheer loudly enough to hear all the way here in SLC.

The Utah State Library for the Blind never got back to me, so I sent them a $300 check. Twenty hours at my current salary is less than that, but I think I called to St. Lucia about twenty times a day last month. I’m also working on recording my chapters as MP3s so that anyone who is blind can listen to them. Voice work is a nice break from writing fiction.

Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow.

2/11/2005

Take a Break for a Bit

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 10:22 am

Just thinking about writing a blog entry makes me feel tired. It’s not like I have lots of other things to do. I’m completely bored here with nothing to do but write and write. I’ve gotten my wish and I have all the time in the world to write and I am tired. I am tired of writing, so I think I’ll take a break for a bit.

2/13/2005

Confusion

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 7:58 am

On Sun, 13 Feb 2005 02:58:18 -0800 (PST), diana frias wrote:

Sent via the form at laura.moncur.org

get over yourself, dealt with the same things growing up yet I feel my parents religion has made a stronger person. Don’t attend “meeting” but yet still have my “JW” morals and thats better than most people these days. Commerial holidays are overrated! Happy valentines day, nobody cares about your sob story or wish list! sorry I came upon your site.


Apparently, Diana found my Worst Valentine Memory entry from last year.


Dear Diana,

Imagine my confusion when I received your email this morning. I wrote that Valentine’s entry last year and had almost completely forgotten about it and then your email came today and I was confused. I’ve had trouble writing lately and I thought you were commenting on the fact that my words have left me. Luckily, your email had just enough clues to jog my memory.

It sounds as if my story hit a nerve with you. Your admonishment was far too negative and judgmental to be merely a “Get Over Yourself” response. I’m sorry you were raised Jehovah Witness. The religion preaches a separatism that is unhealthy to child development. If you fully agreed with their lifestyle, you would be attending Meeting today.

One of the things that I tell myself every day is, “My creativity heals myself and others.” Writing out my worst Valentine memory actually helped heal me a little bit. It sounds, however, that my story was not as helpful to you and may have opened old wounds that were festering under the skin. I wish you the best and I hope that you are finally able to heal after all of these years.

Good Luck, Laura Moncur

3/2/2005

Practice

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The young man bounces the basketball alone. I want to draw a picture of him, but my talent is shy of the task. I want to take a picture of him, but he is so far away and my camera’s zoom is too weak to reach him. I have to capture him in words, which is usually my preferred medium. The only problem is that I no longer trust my words. I’m sick of playing Hide and Seek with them.

He jumps and tosses the basketball at one of the three hoops at the far corner of the park. He plays a solitary game of three-hoop basketball, whose rules are known only to him. His white and blue shorts look silky, just like the ones the pros wear. I watch him jump and reach for the ball rebounding off the rim. He stretches in the reach and he looks a little like a professional ball player, except he’s alone.

I never see the pros practicing alone. They must do it. It takes lots of practice to go pro, so there must be hours of solitary practice for every professional on the court. I’ve seen pro teams practicing together, but I don’t remember ever seeing solitary practice on television.

Oops… He’s gone, walking north and carrying the ball under his right arm. He slipped away as I wrote the previous paragraph. Now he’s walking through the church parking lot all the way across the street. Gone. Before I could catch him on film or in a sketch or even in words.

How many hours of practice does it take? Did he stay out long enough to go pro? How many hours of practice do I need? I’m officially a professional writer. I get paid for my words (albeit not as much as I would like). When does it get easier? If I were to ask Michael Jordan, would he have an answer for me? A sick feeling in my gut tells me it never gets easier. I have the notion that any professional would tell me that it never ends. I always need to practice, no matter how long I have been writing.

A man in his forties has arrived on the court. He is wearing a sweat shirt and long sweat pants with a gray stripe down the sides. He bounces and jumps and chases after the wayward ball. Unlike the boy before him, he sticks to one hoop. It is the one furthest from me and my view is obscured by the baseball fences and bleachers. I can hear his ball bounce on the court. The springtime sun removes his sweat shirt, revealing a white t-shirt underneath. He bounces the ball behind his back and around himself to the front.

My camera can’t reach him and my pencil can’t capture him. All I am left with are my words, which are fleeting and untrustworthy. What is he thinking about? Like me, he practices alone. I scratch out Graffiti letters on my handheld and he chases his blue ball when it rebounds off the rim. It never ends until we die. There is always a need for practice, whether we are professionals or not.

3/9/2005

Write the Legend Anyway

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

She’s the mother of my sister-in-law. I guess that means that she is almost a stranger. I saw her last Saturday at a familial gathering. We see her every once and a while. I would be able to recognize her and remember her name if I saw her in an unfamiliar place.

We know that she is obsessed with family histories and genealogy. That line of study has a religious context here in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is almost a duty of the family to keep a record of the lineage. The church helps out and they have an amazing genealogy library both in the city and online. When she lived in Boston, she would frequently travel back home to visit the library.

She asked about my family. I grew up in the same neighborhood as she raised her children and she was trying to find a connection. She was trying to hear a familiar name. After exhausting my parents’ names, she moved on to my grandparents. For some reason, I was trying to shock her, so I told the risque stories that fill my family’s past. She wanted to hear them all. She was unshockable.

“You should write down your family stories,” she told me. She doesn’t know that I am a writer. She doesn’t know how I’ve shied away from writing any of my family stories. “I would, but I don’t know which ones are true.” She smiled serenely at me and said, “It doesn’t matter what’s true. You write the legend anyway.” I blinked at her a few times and then reached across the couch to hug her. “You are my new favorite person.”

I haven’t put my fingers to the keyboard about very many details about my family’s past because I didn’t ever know if what my grandma or father told me was true. It doesn’t matter. What I write down today will be a hell of a lot truer than what I could write in ten years or what my progeny would try to write when I’m gone. Additionally, it doesn’t matter what the real truth is. There is no real truth anymore. All there is are the memories of what my grandma told me. There are others on the planet who may argue, but to me, those stories are the only truth that exists.

So that’s what I have to do: write the legend anyway.

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